updates: the sabotaging coworker, the anti-vaxxer, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are five updates from past letter-writers.

1. Is my trainer sabotaging my work? (first update here — and I reprinted the letter for Inc. this week as well)

I was (pleasantly) surprised to see a letter I wrote to you back in 2015 make an encore appearance on your site this week! I love Ask a Manager and read every entry; thank you for keeping this site going. Since it’s the season for updates, I thought I’d share mine.

A lot has happened in the past four years. As far as Jane and I go, we have both left the organization for greener pastures. We remain Facebook and occasional text buddies. I was originally put off by how much she pushed for a friendship, but ultimately, she became one of my favorite/closest co-workers. Some of the commenters wondered if Jane is bad with boundaries, and sure, sometimes she is, but she does have a natural talent for building relationships. One of the reasons she was good at her job was because she connected so well with our clients. Jane and I still have very different approaches to work and relationships, but we grew to appreciate the others’ style. So much so, we provided references for each other in our respective job searches.

A quick note: Shortly after my first update I discovered a glitch in our data-base where a subset of client data was not saving unless you selected ‘save’ twice. This subset of data was one of the areas Jane had lectured me about! It turns out that information had not been saved for her client entries either. This glitch does not completely explain away the training weirdness… but it made me feel a little less crazy.

After I had been in my role with Jane for about a year I moved to a team lead role in a different department (Jane was right; she saw my leadership potential before I did, and luckily some higher-ups recognized it as well and offered me some resources for career development). I really enjoyed my team, but the work was not quite the right fit. Although I was being groomed for management, my path for advancement involved moving thorough a few roles that involved a lot of my least favorite industry tasks (not my actual industries: think if you want to be a school principal, but you don’t want to be a classroom teacher first; or you want to manage a construction company but you don’t want to be a construction-worker first). I moved on about six months ago. I still keep casual contact with some of my old team-members.

Now I work in a completely different industry. I moved from non-profit to government work (unsurprisingly: comparable pay and benefits). I don’t supervise a team anymore, which I miss, but I do have a lot of autonomy to run a regional branch of a federal program (vague enough?). The training for this job was smooth and involved about a week of rotating on-site trainings at other regional offices (that week involved a ton of multi-hour commutes!). I enjoy my work most of the time, and I love my co-workers – whom I see in person roughly once per month. I am surpassing my program goals, and there have been murmurs of leadership opportunities on the horizon. In the mean time it is a good thing I am competent with data-bases, because our program funding depends on extremely accurate reporting.

2. My team is snarky and negative (#2 at the link)

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I wrote in! Sadly, not much has changed on my old team. I was moved to a different part of the office and no longer have to listen to them. In fact, I’m in the corner of a large open room with a private cubicle and not much foot traffic. It’s lovely and quiet.

My old manager just wanted to be buddies with everyone and not address any interpersonal issues. As a result, he has a toxic team filled with cliques and rudeness. I actually had another new employee approach recently me saying that she was incredibly uncomfortable with the language and content she was hearing, which I took to the VP of our dept. Not sure anything was actually done, which is disheartening, and I did walk by and see a PUBLICLY POSTED to-do list containing only one item:  “your mom,” from one person on my old team. I had heard that management hired a consultant for my old manager to learn to be a better leader. All I can say is that I hope they didn’t spend too much money on that consultant.

I have a new manager now within the same department, and it’s been a breath of fresh air. He went to bat for me and I can now work from home once a week, he is reasonable about any appointments I have to flex my hours for, he provides good feedback in the moment, and it’s really noticeable on Sunday when the sense of dread doesn’t start creeping in. If anyone out there has a bad manager and you hate your job, start taking steps to leave. It’s not worth the mental toll!

3. How do I tell my coworker not to bring his kids to work every week?

I decided to wait and see if the kids in the office were going to be a weekly thing and speak up if it happened again. And much to my relief, it was not a weekly occurrence. I think my colleague understood how disruptive it was, and he only brought his kids in one more time a few months later. The second time, he made a bigger effort to keep the kids with him in his cubicle and to keep the noise down, which I really appreciated.

The bad and good news is that my department didn’t renew the contracts of a lot of the contingent faculty for this year, so what used to be a very busy, loud office is now incredibly quiet because of colleagues who were essentially fired and other colleagues (including the one with kids) moving to open spaces in a nicer office. So I now have a very quiet office, but am also hyper-aware of how contingent my position is. Academia is a beast.

4. Working with anti-vaxxers when my friend is immunocompromised

Best news, my friend recovered completely from influenza and has been in remission for almost a year now. 

Not so good news, I didn’t see him for almost a month while he was hospitalized; even with the full gown, mask and gloves that were required to go in. After that the measles outbreak in our area had run its course. 

The coworkers are still crunchy and loudly anti-vaxx and I deal with them as little as I am able to. And as far as I know, she still has all her fillings. I don’t know if the pox party ever happened, mainly because we don’t talk. I do know she was off work for about a week toward the end of the outbreak. 

Thanks for the good advice. I didn’t go with the mask, it wasn’t worth the drama that would have ensued given that we had made the decision that I wouldn’t be visiting my friend until the outbreak had run its course.

5. I’m being physically bullied at work

I wrote to you a while back about being physically bullied at work. I have a nice update for you.

I recently received a second promotion (I’m still in shock), and I now outrank all of the bullies. The meanest bully (the one who tried body checking me in the hallways) almost immediately transferred to another team, and one of her accomplices, who was turned down for the same promotion, is attempting to leave as well. Needless to say, they’re very upset.

I’m so grateful for my new position, and proud of myself for not backing down. I’ve endured quite a bit of saltiness these past few days, but I’m still smiling and thankful.

{ 37 comments… read them below }

  1. Jules the 3rd*

    YAY!!! Esp LW 5 – I think we were all pretty worried about you after the car bit, so I’m really glad you’re doing well.

    1. Mama Bear*

      I’m so happy about #5. I’d still watch myself in the parking lot, but I’m glad that things are settling down on a day to day basis.

  2. AndersonDarling*

    #5 I remember reading that letter and feeling sad for humanity. With all the drama with the holidays and news, that one update has brightened my outlook. I hope we get another update later on about how things are after the OP settles into the new role.

  3. Nicole*

    LW 5, I’m so happy for you! The best revenge is success, and you’ve got it! Good luck in the new position!

    1. AnnaBananna*

      Couldn’t agree more. hahaha I would’ve loved to see their faces when they were informed of the promotion.

  4. Antilles*

    #2: I did walk by and see a PUBLICLY POSTED to-do list containing only one item: “your mom,” from one person on my old team.
    I would have considered finding a summary of the state child labor law, highlighting the part about “children under the age of 14”, then hanging it up right next to that list.

    1. KoiFeeder*

      That would be pretty funny. Sadly, I think the result would be “your mom” written on the summary.

  5. Lena Clare*

    OP5 I’m really sorry that those bullies are still allowed to operate there and could potentially bully someone else! I’m also sorry that your manager did *nothing* about them.
    But! I’m glad things have worked out for you career-wise. Karma is a bitch, which I hope those Mean Girls find that out soon.

    1. snowglobe*

      I agree – I’m happy for the LW, but not happy that the bullies are allowed to continue their bullying ways elsewhere.

      Same for LW#4 – happy that their friend is ok; not happy that anti-vaxxers created a situation where the LW couldn’t visit their friend in the hospital. :(

  6. Antilles*

    For #3, I’m wondering if he already knew his kids were disruptive and the “don’t worry kiddo, we’ll be back next week” was just a typical parental white lie to avoid a tantrum.
    Kinda stinks that the reason your office is quiet is due to people being let go. Good luck staying on and definitely hope that you’re soon one of those people moving into a nicer office.

  7. irene adler*

    OP 5: ” I now outrank all of the bullies.”

    This gives me such great satisfaction. The evil side of me is envisioning all the possibilities-heheheheh.

  8. CmdrShepard4ever*

    OP#1 I am glad for you that you found something you like better. But I want to push back on the part about wanting to manage certain industries without knowing the lower level roles. I actually think it is a good idea for people being groomed for management to have to move through lower level roles/industries so that in the future they can know how certain decisions will impact people. With the examples you mentioned a principal not wanting to be a teacher first, or a construction company manager not wanting to work construction. I agree you don’t need to spend years in each those positions, but having 6 month rotations of different roles can be helpful in the future. I have had several managers and I tend to see that the better managers usually have spent some time on the front lines. I am not trying to imply you can’t be a good manager without doing that, but that it generally helps people get a better view of how certain management decisions will impact lower level employees.

    1. OP #1*

      I don’t disagree with you. In my case understanding the job did indeed make me a better leader, which, I think, supports your point about good managers. Thanks for wishing me well in my new field.

      Additional information about my situation: I personally opted out of a career path that would have required (several additional) years of work that I do not enjoy. The nature of managing front line folks means supervisors regularly step in to do the job during emergencies or coverage shortages (very physical, high turn-over work with stagnant wages at the entry level – think CNAs maybe? *also not my actual industry… but I guess picture the career steps between a CNA and a hospital administrator? except in my industry this was an actual career trajectory that happens). It can take decades to raise to a director level (where there is very little turn-over and long standing leaders can be protective of their jobs/turf). My mentor worked with the company for 16 years before reaching the director level. In my role I did the front line work (quite competently) as about 25-50% of my weekly work load for a handful of years (the rest was supervision and training, also paperwork), and I had a great deal of respect for the people I supervised, but it was not a ladder I chose to climb further.

      When I left the company I was at a supervisor level (a little above team lead). The next level up would have been assistant manager (I was actually offered this position the same week I accepted a job with my current company), followed by manager and assistant director, then director. Managers and ADs see a dramatic decrease in front line responsibilities, but realistically, director level is where they fall off completely and you can reasonably let front line certifications lapse (and again, this progression can take decades – the manager in my chain of command had been in his role for nearly 20 years following several years of promotions from entry level). It was very realistic that I would have been doing this work for another decade at least even on an accelerated advancement track.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I can definitely understand not wanting to stick around for a career trajectory that long. Sometimes a different field, or even company can make all the difference. I hope this new job continues to give you the opportunities you want. Not everyone had the guts to make an industry change like you did.

      2. Amanda*

        Yeah, I think that was accidentally a really bad example. I work in education, and Principals who haven’t spent much time being teachers beforehand are often out of touch and unrealistic, leading to them not being respected. I would assume it’s the same for other fields- to say “I’m talented enough to manage without ever experiencing the day-to-day struggle” typically means an awful manager. I was all annoyed by that!

        So I’m glad to hear that for a few years, you did spend time on the front lines. It’s really important to experience what you are asking your employees to do.

    2. Marmalade*

      I agree, that stuck out to me too! I can’t imagine a school principal who hasn’t worked as a teacher.

  9. Door Guy*

    #1 -I feel your pain on the needing to save twice – our current work order system is that way. Whenever you make any notes, you have to hit save twice to get it to actually save. I wondered why my trainer would click save about 5 times whenever he made a note, until I actually had to do it and he explained that it wasn’t saved until it actually said “saved” in the corner, which 100% does NOT happen on the first click.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      What a system! If they want you to click twice, at the very least maybe a message could pop up and ask “are you sure you want to save?” which is a dumb thing to ask, but then you’d at least know you had to click twice! So weird.

      1. Pebbles*

        As someone who has been designing UI for applications nearly 20 years now, yes, this is what you should do if you really want a sanity check before modifying the data. In the OP’s case, of course when you have the file open you might be editing it, but if it’s an important enough data set, you might want to protect the content from accidental changes so you make sure the user really wants to keep those changes before saving it.

      2. Door Guy*

        To be slightly fair, it’s not clicking the save icon up in the corner, the prompt on the note pop up is a big button on the bottom right where the “OKAY” button would normally be is the save button, but once it’s saved you then hit either “CANCEL” or click the X in the corner to close the note box, so still an odd system. The notification of it being saved is also large red letters (larger than the surrounding font) it goes from saying “PAGE 1 OF 1” TO “***NOTE SAVED***PAGE 1 OF 1”.

        Didn’t take long to get the hang of it, but definitely NOT intuitive.

  10. Quill*

    #1 There’s a poorly designed computer system behind it all? Well, congrats on the happy ending!

    #4 Congrats to your friend but that’s STILL infuriating.

    #5 Revenge is best served cold but hopefully the mean girl clique was feeling the heat.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      Kid’s work had a similar issue. They “upgraded” the system and somewhere along the line it quit calculating something correctly so everyone’s stats were suddenly in the toilet. A couple people who had been on thin ice were even put on PIPs. Turns out, the system was jacked. When they finally realized EVERYONE’s number (even the superstars) were really low, they figured out it must be a system issue.

      1. Door Guy*

        Dealt with that at multiple jobs. Current job, our corporate office messed up something in a calculation and threw the sales goals off massively. It was working in our favor as the goals were set really low, but they caught it in October and sent out updated goals. (Also, we updated our work order system from my other comments in the chain and it broke the search function – anyone added after the update wouldn’t pull up in a general search until either A) the company performed their bi-monthly back up, or B) we invoiced out their work order).

  11. Director of Alpaca Exams*

    #5, I’m so glad you outrank the bullies now! I hope that gives you some pull with HR and with the new manager of the one who still works at your company—she harassed and endangered you and should be fired.

    1. Marthooh*

      When I saw this, I read “ya” as “you” O.O
      Then I figured out you meant something like “Gracious heavens, what a delightful update!”

  12. Black Targaryen*

    LW5–I had been WAITING for this update! This made my day!!! Congrats on the promotion and staying above the fray despite the bullies’ best efforts. Also…if you ever feel like sharing here more details in the aftermath, I for one would love to hear it. I still have so many questions about the bodychecking in the halls and trying to hit you with the car—sorry, my curious nature! :-D

  13. btdt*

    Yeah OP#5!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Merry Christmas or whatever you celebrate and Happiest of New Years to you! One of the best updates ever!

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